To Hold a Hummingbird

To Hold a Hummingbird

Hummingbird Tagging-1

I held the hummingbird in my palm, expecting it to fly but it cocked its head instead and stared at me. I stared back. It felt light as air and its body whirred like a tiny motor. Moments stretched into timelessness. With a coaxing nudge from the national park biologist, it flitted away. I had just released a newly banded hummingbird back into the wild!

Hummingbird Tagging-10

What a delightful way to spend a morning at Montezuma Castle National Monument in Camp Verde, AZ.  A national park volunteer tipped us off to the banding “event” the day before which felt more like a private gathering of dedicated bird-lovers. A picnic area hidden under a canopy of tall trees revealed a team of five national park employees and volunteers set up to record and band migrating hummingbirds in association with the Hummingbird Monitoring Network ( As the sole attendees, Greg and I happily took front row seats on a picnic bench near the work table filled with banding pliers, hatpin-like posts holding tiny bands imprinted with numbers, a feeder, white mesh bags, mini “pillows” and other interesting paraphernalia. The park biologist welcomed us and described the process. Just minutes later we watched it unfold.

A hummingbird landed on one of two feeders, 20 feet away, and a net dropped like a curtain, creating a makeshift cage.

Hummingbird Tagging-5Hummingbird Tagging-3

Cables stretched from the nets to stands manned by the crew. With just the touch of a switch, it was curtain time. Timing is key and sometimes the feathered beauties escaped before the finale.

Quickly, carefully, the captive bird was placed in a mesh bag and delivered to the biologist who checked to see if it was banded.

Hummingbird Tagging-6

This black-chinned hummingbird was not sporting the numbered anklet. “How’d you learn to do this?” Greg asked as we watched her gently place a measuring tool on a skinny, twig-like leg sticking through a hole in the bag. “Extensive training. We actually practiced on toothpicks”, she replied. After applying the band she hand-held the bird, made some measurements and softly blew through a straw separating breast and neck feathers to check for fat content (thick necks) and developing eggs.

Hummingbird Tagging-4Hummingbird Tagging-2Hummingbird Tagging-9Hummingbird Tagging-7

Then, the bird was gently wrapped in a sheer fabric square (feet and head sticking out) like a mini-burrito and weighed on a scale. A team member recorded all the data during the process which took five minutes or less.

With a swooping motion mimicking the hummingbird’s natural flight to a feeder, the biologist held the bird at the table-top feeder while it drank its fill of sweetness.

Hummingbird Tagging-8

“Would you like to release the bird?” she asked me. I opened my hand and she placed the hummingbird in my palm.

Categories: On the RoadTags: , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. This is so cool!!!! Too bad others didn’t take advantage of the event. 🙂


  2. Wow! What a great experience. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Happy Greg was there with the camera!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s amazing. We love “our” hummingbirds that have adopted our yard and feeder. Of course we’ve named them, “Peetie” and “Peetie’s” friend.


  4. What a great thing. I would love that.


  5. That was so much fun to watch the countless pictures from Greg and read Rosanne’s comments. You two are the Dynamic Duo, what a team! I am pleasantly surprised that they can do that so delicately with those little creatures. Love the hummingbirds.


  6. “Do what you love for a living, and you will never work a day of your life”. I wish I knew who to credit for that. It sure applys here! Thanks you guys! For sharing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Rosanne Wagstaff

Travel Writer

Out an' About

Loving life and Embracing a New Earth


Wild photos and the tales they tell

Alberta Skies RV

Living Life and Making Memories

Stubborn And Courageous

Stubborn And Courageous Adventures Reflecting the Father's Heart to The People.


Definition: A distinct kind or sort what liveth in man-made automobilehomes

Wags Wild Adventure

ad•ven•ture: an exciting or remarkable experience


The Mitch and Val "Roadshow"


The Wildlife in Nature

Tales from the Backroad

Art, travel, and livin' the life

Indie Hero

Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller

Live to Write - Write to Live

We live to write and write to live ... professional writers talk about the craft and business of writing

Lee Rentz Photography Journal

A journal of the thoughts, pictures, and adventures of photographer and writer Lee H. Rentz. Inspired by nature, with a passion for ideas both visual and literary.

Arizona Highways

Escape Explore Experience

Travels with the Blonde Coyote

Follow the Blonde Coyote and see more of the world!

Jim Caffrey Images Photo Blog

photography from the ground up

this is... The Neighborhood

the Story within the Story

%d bloggers like this: